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Ship captain, owner sought in Port of Beirut explosion case

Warrants issued for MV Rhosus master and Russian businessman

The MV Rhosus was carrying ammonium nitrate when it was abandoned at the Port of Beirut in 2013. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Arrest warrants have been issued for the Russian captain and owner of the vessel that carried the ammonium nitrate believed to have caused the massive Port of Beirut explosion.

Al Jazeera said the final tally was 193 people dead, 6,500 wounded and 300,000 homeless as a result of the Aug. 4 blast, blamed on 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored in a Port of Beirut warehouse.

The ammonium nitrate, used in agricultural fertilizer, was destined for Mozambique in 2013. But the MV Rhosus stopped at the Port of Beirut because of what have been called “financial difficulties” — and never left. After the ship was abandoned, the cargo was transferred to a warehouse. The Rhosus reportedly sank at the port sometime during the ensuing years. 

Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) reported warrants have been issued for Boris Prokoshev, captain of the Rhosus when it docked in Beirut, and shipowner Igor Grechushkin, a Russian businessman reportedly living in Cyprus. 

NNA reported in the days following the catastrophic blast that some two dozen individuals, including port authorities and customs officials, were placed under house arrest as the investigation continued. CNN said documents suggested multiple government agencies in Lebanon knew the dangerous chemical was being stored in the warehouse and may have failed to safeguard it. 

Another fire erupted at the port on Sept. 10, just over a month after the devastating explosion. This time, the fire started in a warehouse containing oil and tires. 

A message on the Port of Beirut website now says that it is proud that handling operations resumed within days of the Aug. 4 explosion and that it is “seeking contributions or professional support from local and international professionals willing to lend their solidarity and support to the port in the major reconstruction.”  

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Click for more American Shipper/FreightWaves stories by Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills.

Kim Link Wills

Senior Editor Kim Link-Wills has written about everything from agriculture as a reporter for Illinois Agri-News to zoology as editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. Her work has garnered awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. Prior to serving as managing editor of American Shipper, Kim spent more than four years with XPO Logistics.